The Journey begins...

My photo
The National Park Service is sponsoring programming that will commemorate the 150 anniversary of President-elect Abraham Lincoln's trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, on February 11-23, 2011.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day One - February 11, 2011

First, let’s start with National Park Service (NPS) team who will be re-tracing Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural route 150 years later. The team is led by Tim Good, superintendent at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (NHS).

Richard F. “Fritz” Klein is portraying President-elect Lincoln along the route. Klein will depict Lincoln in 16 cities between February 11 and February 23, ending in Washington, D.C., as Lincoln did 150 years ago.

Other team members include Spirit Trickey, acting chief of interpretation at Central High School NHS in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Dave Schafer, chief of interpretation, education, and cultural resources at Brown v. Board of Education NHS in Topeka, KS.

Special recognition also goes to Tim Townsend, the historian at Lincoln Home NHS. Tim envisioned the idea of following Lincoln’s inaugural route on the 150th anniversary of his journey. Tim also wrote a booklet, Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Greatness. The booklets will be given out to audience members at the programs along the way.

The journey for the NPS team began, as Lincoln did, on Feb. 11 in Springfield, Illinois. We did our first program to 54 people in the Grace Lutheran Church at 9:00 am. Spirit introduced the president-elect. Mr. Lincoln spoke eloquently and emotionally. The program was about 30 minutes long.

The next event was at the Lincoln home. In a re-staging of their travel to Washington, D.C., Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln stepped out of the house with various bags and a trunk. They boarded a horse-drawn carriage for the ride to the train station. Mr. Lincoln made a comment about the weight of one of the bags. Mrs. Lincoln said that, well, he had packed it.

Lincoln speaks to crowd in Springfield, Illinois
The Lincolns rode in the carriage to the train station. An entourage followed them, stepping carefully on the frozen ice and snow for much of the route. About 600 people were gathered at the station. At 11:00 am, the crowd read Lincoln’s farewell address in unison three times in an attempt to set a world record for the simultaneous reading of the same thing at the same time.

A century-and-a-half ago, the country teetered on the brink of civil war. Seven southern states had seceded from the Union, fearing that the new Republican president from Illinois, a free state, would interfere with the institution of slavery in the south. Southerners were forming the Confederate States of America. War clouds hung ominously in the air. What would Lincoln do in response to this national emergency?

Spirit Trickey, Park Ranger from Central High School
National Historic Site, speaks to crowd.
As the president-elect reflected on his rendezvous with destiny that awaited him in the nation’s capital, he reflected, “I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.”

In 1861, a freezing drizzle caused many people to use umbrellas when they watched Lincoln say his words of farewell. During the re-enactment of Lincoln’s farewell address I (Dave Schafer) was videotaping the farewell address, as well as taking photographs. In keeping with the re-staging of the farewell address, a student standing between the president-elect and me popped open his umbrella part way through the address, which blocked my view of Mr. Lincoln.

We then walked back toward the Lincoln Home NHS visitor center. We boarded the van to start our journey.

Riding in a van with Abraham Lincoln as one of the passengers is an interesting experience. At our first stop at a convenience store to get a Subway sandwich, a man in line said he had passed us on the road. He did a double-take when he saw Mr. Lincoln riding in a van and talking on a cell phone!

In 1861, the president-elect boarded a train at about 8:00 in the morning and reached Indianapolis, Indiana, at about 5:00 pm. Our team left Springfield, Illinois, just after noon and arrived in Indianapolis about 4:30 pm.

The next event was at the Indiana State Museum at 5:00 pm. Fritz Klein rode as the president-elect in an open carriage up to the museum’s entrance. To serenade the arrival of Mr. Lincoln, the Columbia Brass Quintet performed Civil War era brass band music. Audience members were treated to a number of period tunes, including “Hail, Columbia,” “Hard Times,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and a medley of “Dixie/Bonnie Blue Flag.”

For the evening program on Friday, Feb. 11, Mr. Lincoln made some appropriate remarks. When he finished, the band played a couple of more tunes. Mr. Lincoln took some questions. Then Fritz Klein stepped out of character and mingled with the audience. About 42 people attended the program.

Several children were present, including a little girl named “Daisy.” We took a number of photos of her speaking to Mr. Lincoln.

In 1861, when Mr. Lincoln arrived in Indianapolis, he was given a 34-gun artillery salute, one for each state in the Union (which, beginning on January 29, now included my home state of Kansas). Speaking to a crowd at the train station, Lincoln said, “. . . the salvation of the Union . . . needs but one single thing—the hearts of a people like yours. When the people rise in masses on behalf of the Union and the liberties of their country, truly may it be said, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against them.’” 

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